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Small hospital faces four malpractice suits in two years

Most instances of medical malpractice in Maryland and elsewhere occur in hospitals, where many different healthcare professionals may be involved in the care of a single patient. Errors may be made by a physician, a nurse, an X-ray technician or any one of the myriad of care givers that attend to patients. Nevertheless, a single hospital, especially one located in a small town, should not face a significant number of lawsuits alleging medical malpractice. A remarkable exception is a community hospital in Denison, Iowa.

The hospital's malpractice insurer settled a wrongful death in 2016 and attempted to prevent the terms of the settlement from becoming public. A court case later forced the hospital to disclose the terms of the settlement. Now it faces three more wrongful death suits, all of which are based on medical errors. The statistical evidence is troubling. Iowa has 120 hospitals, and those hospitals generate about 160 malpractice suits in a single year, about 1.33 per hospital per year. Only a small fraction of those suits involves the wrongful death of a patient.

The three lawsuits set out very different complaints. One alleges that a hospital physician improperly sedated an obese man to remove a breathing obstruction. Another alleges that the hospital discharged a patient who died after swallowing 20 prescription sedatives following her discharge. The third alleges that a baby died when a physician failed to promptly attend to a scan showing dangerous obstructions in the baby's digestive system.

The hospital involved in these cases has not made any public comment, but other concerned persons have called attention to the statistical anomaly presented by these cases. If nothing else, the filing of these cases highlights the potential for injury or death caused by medical negligence. Anyone who has suffered an injury or lost a loved one due to suspected medical malpractice may wish to consult a lawyer who is experienced in such cases. Such a consultation can provide an analysis of the facts and law that govern the case and an estimate of the likelihood of recovering damages for medical expenses, lost income and pain and suffering.

Source: Des Moines Register, "Small Iowa hospital hit with four wrongful death suits in two years," Tony Leys, April 25, 2017

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